Coach Mark Stoops talks bye week, preparing for Vanderbilt

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT) - Mark Stoops Press Conference 10-15-18

Opening Statement
“Excited about getting back to work here this week and getting into a game week. I thought we had a very good bye week. Used it to heal up a bit, get some rest, get a jump on Vandy, continue to build on some of the things were doing well, work on some areas that need improvement. Excited about this opportunity here this week against Vandy.”

On who benefitted most from this week from an injury standpoint…
“I don’t know. Obviously Drake, I think, Drake Jackson he’s a guy that he needed it after the (Texas) A&M game. It would have been hard for him to play if we played this Saturday. He’s one that jumps out immediate. But, there are quite a few guys that are banged up, as you could imagine halfway through the season. Naasir (Watkins) is getting better, that’s good. We have a chance. I said last week I think it was that I didn’t think we’d him this week and I think there’s a good chance we’ll have him available this Saturday, so that will be good for him as well.”

On if he got a chance to watch football on Saturday…
“I did, I watched some. It was a wild weekend, that’s for sure. It was good. It was good to sit there and be stress free for a day (laughter). Really enjoyed that.”

On if he enjoyed watching others stress…
“Yeah, exactly. It was good to just sit back and watch other people. That’s the one day that we get to do that. Our staff, they needed it. Probably the one, our guys have about one day off from mid-July until December 21st and that was Saturday. So, better make the most of it.”

On if he watched the Vandy vs. Florida game…
“I watched a good piece of that. I was with my son and a bunch of his friends for a birthday party with him, in-between that stress (laughter). I was watching some of that.”

On his impressions of Vandy…
“Well, Vandy is a team that is very well coached. I really have a lot of respect for Derek (Mason), and what he does and how he coaches, and you see a team that is very hungry that plays very hard. Well coached, and they are just looking for that breakthrough. They really had a great opportunity to beat Notre Dame and then they had a great opportunity against Florida, two very, very good football teams. You see what they are capable of, and so Vandy is a good team and they are hungry, they play hard. We’re going to have to play very good football. You know that’s my message every week, it’s about us and what we do, and how we prepare, and how we respect the game and our preparation no matter who we’re playing. It starts today with having a very good Monday.”

On if he lets himself look at the SEC East standings…
“No, the team’s going to hear that today. With the bye being at the sixth week, right in the middle of the season we’re going to be one week at a time, you know that I’ve said that all year. We’re going to try and go 1-0. We’re gonna try to win this week and put ourselves in a position to win this week. We have six one-week seasons left.”

On if he heard what Coach Calipari had to say about him during men’s basketball media day and how it made him feel…
“I heard bits and pieces and of course I have a great relationship with Cal. I could joke about it, because how many questions do I field about that (laughter)? I always appreciate his support. He’s always been good. We have a great relationship and he’s always supportive and helpful and vice-versa.”

On if he’s been giving him advice on in-game scenarios…
“He’s getting excited about some things in the future, and I’m like ‘Hey, Coach, one game at a time.”

On if the plan is to shrink down the wide receiver position…
“Shrink it down or what do you mean? Well, Akeem (Hayes) got hurt. Akeem got hurt, he got hurt a little bit there. So, Clevan (Thomas) is red-shirting, and Akeem got hurt. That made us explore Tavin (Richardson) inside. Which is fine, it will give Josh (Ali) some opportunities outside and possibly looking at some more roles for Zy’aire (Hughes) like we had talked about. Tavin is good inside. Then you got (David) Bouvier and Lynn (Bowden) in there. So, the three of them will handle the inside positions, along with Tavin playing some outside.”

On if he has any concerns about being rusty coming out of the bye week…
“I look at last year’s game immediately after the bye week. I did look at that. Look at the sports science behind that, what we did. So, yes I am making some changes. Some things were brought to my attention on how we played and what we did rep-wise and things like that. As far as the rest of the season … we’ve had some strong finished too, you always fail to mention that (laughter).”

On if there is an update on Josh Paschal…
“Josh is doing good. He’s doing very, very good. We’re very encouraged by Josh and his recovery and what he is doing. Maybe I’ll have a nice smile on my face and a good update here in a couple weeks, we’ll see. But, he’s getting better. The procedure that was done to his foot is healing. That’s what he’s dealing with right now. But, he is doing some light running, he is progressing with some body-weight stuff right now.”

On the wide receivers running good routes...
"I think they're like much of the team. There’s things that they could do better. So, I don’t want to single them out and cast any blame on them. There’s a lot of things and a lot of people. We could do things better. We are all in this together. They are a piece of that."

On Terry Wilson's performance at Texas A&M...
"Terry (Wilson) will learn from that experience and he will get better and we all, once again, (have to) look at what we can do to put him in the position to be better, what the players around him can do better. We can coach better. There is room for improvement for all of us. Again, he is not immune to that. He certainly did some things in that game that needs (to be) corrected. He will be corrected and move on."

On pulling a quarterback...
"I think to say that the quarterback position is not different than other positions, in my opinion, is simply not true. It is different. As far as me worrying about him and his confidence with any of that, I have no concerns with that with him. That is just how Terry is built. He may make mistakes, but he really will not get rattled. He will learn from it. He will grow. He will get better. That is just the confidence that I have in him. But, it is different. We talk about it more often. We always talk about who is starting because it is different. I told you earlier in the year. I believe that. I do not believe in having a quick trigger and pulling someone there once you make your decision. That doesn't mean that we won't have some opportunities to see some quarterbacks. You don't know how things are going to play out."

On Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn ...
"He is explosive. He is extremely fast. He is a guy that, he is just a good player. He really is. He is really fast and explosive, talked to a few people who have played him and they say that as fast as he looks on film he is faster in person. So, that means that definitely you can you feel him on the field."

On trying to defend Ke'Shawn Vaughn...
"Well, we are going to play team defense. We are going to play the way we always play. He is a very good player. We have great respect for him. We are going to do what we do."

On Ke'Shawn Vaughn being on his recruiting radar...
"Yeah, he was. Oh yeah, definitely, he is a good player."

On the importance of having veterans on your team...
"It is important. It is very important. Our guys have been around. They have experience. They have been through this. They understand what is in front of them and not to look too far ahead. Really, we can't look further ahead than Monday. We have had some work on Vandy. We did some good against good last week as well, just to play fast and play fast ball. We did get a jump on them a bit so we are further along than a typical Monday. We should be able to go out there and play faster than we would on a typical Monday as well."

On this Monday being different in not having to review last week's film...
"It is. We will spend some more time looking at last week's practices as well. So, Thursday's practice, some of that film was cut early because of coaches going on the road recruiting. So, we will watch it a little, some of the practice film from last week."

On bye week being in the middle of the season, do you spend more time looking at what you’ve done or more time looking ahead to the remainder of the season...
"Both. About equal. We spend a significant amount of time doing a self-scout. Things that we did during this year, trying to look at what opponents are looking at, how predictable we are. Defensively, we are looking at calls we are making on first or second down, what they are seeing, things that have hurt us, areas where we can improve. Same thing offensively. Again, I have said it over and over, but it is true, continuing to build on who we are and the good things we are doing and then continue to try to find answers or ways to be creative to create some other plays. So, we did a good amount of self-scout, and then we did very, very slight implementation of some new things. We do have an array of things that we could possibly build into the future of this season. But, it is hard to just put … you can’t do that to your kids. You have put them in a position where they are comfortable and playing fast. So, there’s always new wrinkles, but we can't put it all on them at once."

On if there were any surprises when evaluating self-scout…
“I think there were some really good things in there and I’m pleased with some areas, certainly if you look at it from going into the season there was some improvement in some areas, yes, and again you’re never satisfied you’re looking for the ways you can do things better and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

On some of the games he watched this weekend and if he could saw Za’Darius Smith’s three-sack game…
“Just a bit. Juts shot him a text this morning and congratulated him. He’s having a really good year, and a great game (Sunday), so I just saw some highlights.”

On how he saw Za’Darius develop since he first started coaching him to where he is now….
“He’s a great example of a guy that just comes in and was a real man about things. He just came in with a mission. He came in from a junior college on a mission to improve every day and a lot like Josh Allen and many others of our players -- I don’t mean to single them out – he’s there to get better each and every day and he practiced like that when he was here, he’s gotten better you can tell in the NFL. He’s having a great career and just proud of him in the way he handles his business and you can tell he’s a pro the way he’s taking care of his body, the way he’s developing, he looks huge and he’s playing very fast and playing good, so just happy for him.”

“By the way, same thing with Bud (Dupree) and really Avery (Williamson), Avery’s having one heck of a year amongst others. A lot of our guys are playing very good in the NFL this year. I don’t really watch a lot of NFL to be honest with you, we’re working on Sundays but you do try to catch a bit here and there and some highlights.”

On the success of Za’Darius and Bud and Josh and how it helps recruit that end rusher position…
“It does, it should. Those guys have been very, very productive here and you know it helps.”

On who else is playing well on defense…
“The group is playing well and it would be hard for me to single out certain guys. I think it’s obvious some guys have gotten attention, a lot of the secondary, all five of those guys are playing well. Darius (West) has had a lot of production, Mike Edwards plays so hard, he’s so knowledgeable, he’s seeing so many things, he’s so instinctual. The corners are covering well but they’re playing good as a group and the inside backers have played well, the D-Line by committee, we’re playing quite a few guys on the defensive line they’re staying fresh, they’re staying healthy, there’s a bunch of guys playing there. The outside backers are playing an awful lot of snaps. Josh (Allen) is hard to take off the field, he’s so productive, he doesn’t want to come out. He’s in such great shape and Jamar (Watson) has really come on and played well the past couple of games.”

On if it is gratifying to see the secondary play at this level and back up what you originally said…
“I’m just happy for them, I think they really got to a point where we played so many of them as true freshmen as well and that is something where you just wish you didn’t have to do that all the time unless they’re completely ready and because I’d certainly love to have a couple of them back -- Chris (Westry) and Derrick (Baity) and have them back for another year and see what they can do because they have a lot of upside to them still, but I’ve been happy for the group. I think they’ve worked extremely hard and are just really mature and have seen a lot of football.”

On Josh Allen and Bunchy Stallings being named mid-season All-American, Bunchy specifically, and if he was surprised Benny Snell wasn’t on the list…
“Just pleased, I didn’t know that or pay much attention to that. Again, if the team has success the individual accolades will be there at the end of the year. I’m sure they’re really not worried about that. They’re worried about playing good and they’re worried about playing good for their team and helping their team win games but that really doesn’t matter halfway through the season to us. I mentioned it before, I’m very proud of the way those guys are playing individually. I could go on and on, I think Josh is the most dominant player that I’ve seen and of course I don’t see everybody but he’s been one of the most dominant defensive players in the game this year and Bunchy had the individual recognition as he deserves, SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week twice, and kind of anchors that group and shows his versatility jumping in and playing so well at center. He’s extremely athletic and has been a great leader and so I’m very happy for him and what he’s doing and of course Benny is rock-steady every week, you know what you’re going to get and we need him to have a strong game here this week.”

On if a bowl game is included in one of the four redshirt games…
“Yes, you can play in the bowl game as one of your four.”

On why the rest of the secondary has so much respect for Darius West …
“I mentioned this briefly last week. I just think with Darius, he’s kind of one of those guys that when he talks, people listen to him. He doesn’t talk all the time, and when he speaks, he kind of has that, he has an edge about him and an attitude. They’re probably down-right frightened (laughter) when he gets serious, and he gets an edge about him and that competitiveness comes out of him. I’m proud of him in that he has redirected a lot of his energy to a positive way this year, where he’s been very mature in his preparation and fighting through moody days or down days and been more consistent, and it’s showing up on the field. His teammates know that where he has an impact about him, he has a physicality and suddenness about him where he can make some explosive plays because he’s very twitched-up. He can thump you.”

On West’s perseverance through injuries …
“I definitely think that was a big piece of it for him. Even mentally last year coming out of that, coming through that, because he has such competiveness in him that he had to fight through some of that fear, that wanting to stay healthy and wanting to just get out there and play. That’s what I’ve always said about him, he just needs to play. He just needs the reps, and he just needs to see it because it’s hard to simulate all that goes on in a game in all these practices.”

On how the earlier signing day will play out in year two …
“We’ve modified it a bit. It’s always different year to year. It’s different individually with what the kids want. With the early signing period, last year being the first year, we had a lot of kids committed, and we still kind of wanted to spend time with them in December because they could come in and watch bowl practice. We could spend 48 hours with them, and when they come in season and we play a night game, I’m walking out of here, with you guys keep me in here until 12 and then I got to go do radio and TV, so you get out of here so late, it’s hard to spend time with the families to really get to know them, does that make sense? Last year we tried to do that, and we had a great December weekend, and I think it worked out well so close to signing period. I think as you go through year two, I think things are moving up. It can’t help but change the calendar on their commitments and when they’re committing and when they’re taking their visits and all of that, so we’re seeing more and more early visits. We’ve had more than we’ve had. I’d have to check with our guys. We’ve had more official visits, but I’d still say we probably have at least 50 percent or more left to bring in at a later time.”

On the recruiting pitch being different than years past …
“No. I don’t think that really changes much. If a player really is interested in making an early decision then you better get your visit in because you don’t want to miss on an opportunity, so that’s where it, to me, goes on an individual basis with each individual recruit and where they’re at and when they’re going to make their decision. Lot of our kids can get here unofficially and that’s good because they come in for a game, and it’s a quick weekend, and if they do that to come spend time with us, it’s really nice because later we can spend that two full days in December, bring them up and spend some quality time with them and for them to get to know us, so just individual basis, but it is different. That’s a long-winded version of saying yes it is different.”

On the possibility of playing Chris [Oats] and Kash [Daniels] together …
“We can. We’ll see how it goes. Jordan [Jones] is really playing well and staying healthy, which is nice to see with Jordan, for the most part, so we’ll see, but we can rotate them some as well. Because Kash is one of those guys, Kash plays physical, and he gets banged up as well. Chris is really doing some good things, and you always see DeAndre [Square] in there once in a while as well to spell Jordan and get some reps. I think it’s just important for the development of your team as well when a guy is playing good. There’s been times when you’ve been so afraid to rotate guys because there’s such a significant drop, and you’re not seeing that as much. I’m constantly, obviously you’re here to win every game and you’re worried about this week, but you’re also worried about the development of your team and where you’re going next year.”

On the punt coverage situation after the Texas A&M game …
“Some of our angles, the way we’re pursuing to the football and getting there and cutting it off, there’s things we could do better, and it’s been addressed. There’s also at the line of scrimmage, our releases and some things that we need to do better.”

On the possibility of Chance [Poore] playing in one of the remaining six games …
“There’s an opportunity there. I’m not sure when or where, but yes, there’s an opportunity.”



 
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